Verstappen wins sprint race at Imola

Max Verstappen recovered from a bad start to pass Charles Leclerc to take victory in the sprint race at Imola. It was an exciting duel between the defending champion and Leclerc in the Ferrari.

The defending champion preserved his soft Pirellis until the closing seven laps of the 21-tour sprint to mount a late charge when it looked as though Leclerc was in control.

With the aid of DRS and as his Ferrari rival battled oversteer, Verstappen dived around the outside into Tamburello and kept his car on track to take the win and pole for the main Grand Prix on Sunday.

Leclerc had nailed his launch and with the kink on the main straight placing him on the inside, he could sprint past a wheel-spinning Verstappen to seize first into Tamburello.

Verstappen next had to ensure he retained second as Lando Norris threatened around the outside into the first chicane aboard his McLaren, but the defending champion held firm.

A super-aggressive Perez demoted Fernando Alonso and then lunged past Daniel Ricciardo for a quick rise to fifth, while Ricciardo in turn briefly tagged fourth-placed Kevin Magnussen in the concertina.

But the first lap was soon interrupted by a yellow flag then safety car when 14th-starting Zhou Guanyu and Pierre Gasly, who lined up in 17th, came to blows.

At the Piratella left-hander, the front right of Gasly’s AlphaTauri tagged the rear-left wheel on the Alfa Romeo, which sent it spinning across the track into the inside wall.

Zhou’s car suffered terminal suspension damage, while Gasly persevered with a broken wheel rim back to the pits and swapped for another set of softs to resume behind Alexander Albon in P18.

When the safety car peeled in, Leclerc escaped without a major threat from Verstappen as the points leader swiftly established a lead a touch over 1s to remain out of DRS range.

Leclerc settled a little over the 1s threshold for three tours and then on lap seven, set what was at the time the fastest lap of the race to stretch his cushion to 1.5 seconds over the RB18.

It looked as though Verstappen might struggle to find a reply, but then the gap began to close back under a second thanks to a series of personal best sectors for the Dutch racer.

Leclerc had not made an error, as Verstappen brought the gap below a second and then used DRS and the slipstream out of the final corner to bring the difference down to half a second.

But in his pursuit, Verstappen suffered a spike of oversteer to allow the gap to creep up to 0.8 seconds again, before Leclerc’s soft tyre began to deteriorate as he too ran wide at Villeneuve.

That brought Verstappen close out of Rivazza and gave him the slipstream, which combined with DRS, allowed him to make his move around the outside into Tamburello.

Leclerc gave his rival space at the first apex, and Verstappen kept within the painted lines to make the move stick before romping to a 1.5 seconds lead before sealing the win by 2.9 seconds.

Meanwhile, it was teammate Sergio Perez that could make major gains after his struggles in a wet qualifying session had him starting seventh.

The Mexican sailed past a defenceless Kevin Magnussen – both Haas drivers and Nicholas Latifi the only cars to skip softs and start on medium tyres – into Tamburello for fourth.

And Perez kept putting the slipstream out of the final corner for the run into the chicane to good use as he then copied the manoeuvre on Norris with the help of DRS to climb to third.

The second Ferrari of Carlos Sainz, starting P10 after his Q2 mistake, could make similar progress, first dispatching Alonso – who had initially struggled to leave his grid box on the formation lap – into Tamburello.

Sainz could then make a similar move on medium-shod Magnussen, then Ricciardo before eviscerating a five-second gap to Norris to pass the Briton for a fourth-placed start in the Grand Prix.

Norris led Ricciardo for a McLaren 5-6 ahead of Valtteri Bottas, a declining Magnussen and Fernando Alonso, who noticeably had to fight several spikes of oversteer.

Mick Schumacher completed the top ten on medium tyres, as George Russell maintained his starting place of P11 ahead of a climbing Yuki Tsunoda, Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton.

So that’s pole position for the main Imola Grand Prix. The bonus eight points for this sprint victory is crucial for Max Verstappen in terms of closing the gap to the championship leader Charles Leclerc. Bring on the race for another duel between the Red Bull and Ferrari on Sunday.

Sprint race results:
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 30:39.567
2 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 2.975
3 Sergio Perez Red Bull 4.721
4 Carlos Sainz Jr. Ferrari 17.578
5 Lando Norris McLaren 24.561
6 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren 27.740
7 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo 28.133
8 Kevin Magnussen Haas 30.712
9 Fernando Alonso Alpine 32.278
10 Mick Schumacher Haas 33.773
11 George Russell Mercedes 36.284
12 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 38.298
13 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin 40.177
14 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 41.459
15 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 42.910
16 Esteban Ocon Alpine 43.517
17 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri 43.794
18 Alex Albon Williams 48.871
19 Nicholas Latifi Williams 52.017
– Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo DNF

3 thoughts to “Verstappen wins sprint race at Imola”

  1. Imola sprint review as reported by

    Max Verstappen won the first Sprint of 2022 having passed Charles Leclerc with two laps remaining, to ensure a first-place start for Sunday’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.

    Friday’s wet qualifying session set the grid for this Sprint, Verstappen having taken pole position over Leclerc with Lando Norris leading Kevin Magnussen off the second row. An overhauled format now sees points awarded to the top eight rather than the top three – even more incentive to give it all on Saturday afternoon, under clouds spitting with rain…

    It was Leclerc, to a rapturous reception from the tifosi, who took the lead off Verstappen as the lights went out – only for the Safety Car to interrupt proceedings as Zhou Guanyu (DNF) and Pierre Gasly (P19) made contact through Turn 9 on Lap 1. Green-flag racing would resume on Lap 5, Leclerc leading Verstappen then Norris at the time.

    The championship leader skated away, Verstappen in tow. The Dutchman loomed in Leclerc’s mirrors throughout and was in DRS range with a handful of laps remaining, stalking the Ferrari and making his move for the lead with two laps left – sliding by into Tamburello.

    Completing the top three was Verstappen’s Red Bull team mate Sergio Perez, who made up three places within the first 10 laps and pried P3 off Norris on Lap 11 with DRS.

    Norris dropped to P5 for McLaren, Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz up six places having crashed out of Q2, which caused him to start 10th on Saturday. Sainz claimed P4 off the McLaren with just two laps remaining.

    That left Daniel Ricciardo sixth, where he started, ahead of a fast-moving Alfa Romeo of Valtteri Bottas, who took P7 off medium-tyred Haas driver Kevin Magnussen late in the Sprint.

    Magnussen held on for the final point, finishing ahead of Alpine’s Fernando Alonso in P9 – who started fifth but couldn’t contend with his rivals’ pace on the softs – and the other Haas of Mick Schumacher, who took P10 on mediums.

    George Russell recovered back to 11th having lost places at the start, finishing ahead of AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda and the Aston Martin of Sebastian Vettel – who gradually fell out of the top 10 and into 13th by the flag.

    Lewis Hamilton started 13th and finished 14th in another tough showing for the Silver Arrows.

    Lance Stroll rounded out the top 15 for Aston Martin, having started P15 for the Sprint.

    Gearbox issues put Esteban Ocon 19th for the start of the Sprint and he made up three places for P16 in the Alpine, keeping Gasly – who collided with Zhou at the start and pitted for a nose change – 17th.

    Williams’ Alex Albon started last due to a brake fire in qualifying, and ended up 18th – his team mate Nicholas Latifi 19th, with Zhou the sole retiree on Saturday.

    Sunday will therefore see Verstappen start first ahead of Leclerc, with Perez and Sainz sharing the second row.

  2. Red Bull’s Max Verstappen commented that the Imola Formula 1 sprint race was a “waiting game”. has the news story.

    Max Verstappen said the Emilia Romagna Formula 1 sprint turned into a “waiting game” for him once it became clear race leader Charles Leclerc was suffering from tyre graining.

    The Red Bull driver had a poor getaway from pole position and lost the advantage to Ferrari’s Leclerc, who began to open up a clear advantage at the front after an early safety car period.

    But Leclerc’s fortunes turned when he began suffering graining on his right front tyre, and his pace fell away.

    That handed the advantage back to Verstappen, who pushed hard to get himself within DRS range before making a move in to Turn 2 on the penultimate lap.

    Verstappen said that once it became obvious that Leclerc was struggling, it was just a matter of finding the right moment to make his move.

    “Charles was definitely struggling more with the graining,” said Verstappen. “Then of course, I could close up and use the DRS to get by.

    “But I think it was more just of a bit of a waiting game, because every lap it seemed like the gap or the difference between the two cars was getting bigger in terms of a lap times.”

    Despite his tyre advantage though, Verstappen admitted it took some effort to get within striking range.

    “Of course, at one point, it’s very tricky once you get around that one second window to get super close,” he explained.

    “Of course with these cars, it is better to follow. But it’s still very hard to pass. You still need to use the tyres and especially with the deg we had on the soft, getting in that DRS window, it was hard.

    “But then once I got into it, I think on the second attempt we had a good little battle into Turn 2. But yeah, clearly, we had a bit more pace at the end of the race.”

    The world champion said he needed to analyse exactly what went wrong at the start, as too much wheelspin led to a poor getaway.

    “[The start was] terrible. When I let the clutch go, just a lot of wheel spin and no traction. So my start was very, very poor,” he said.

    Asked if the fact he was starting from the dirty side of the track could have been a factor, Verstappen said: “I mean Lando had a decent start, so there’s no excuse.

    “My start was just terrible. I didn’t have gear sync for whatever reason. So, yeah, I need to see exactly what went wrong.”

  3. Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc said that the Scuderia needs to cure tyre graining to win Imola Formula 1 race. has the details.

    Charles Leclerc reckons he can retaliate against Max Verstappen and “fight for the win” in Formula 1’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix if Ferrari can “cure” its sprint race tyre graining.

    The championship leader appeared to have stolen a march over his Red Bull rival for most of the Saturday afternoon sprint race at Imola at he sat beyond DRS range and was 1.7s clear.

    But the tide began to change on lap 15 of 21 when Verstappen commenced a run of personal best sector times to bring the gap down to 1.1s before dipping under a second to gain DRS.

    His first run with the overtaking aid brought him to within 0.5s as Leclerc struggled with front-right graining on his set of red-walled soft Pirelli tyres.

    The defending champion then made a pass stick through the Tamburello left-right chicane with two laps remaining.

    Leclerc said his ailing tyres were inspired by his attempts early in the sprint contest to build an advantage over Verstappen after nipping past the wheel-spinning RB18 off the line.

    He said: “I had a very good start. We weren’t side-by-side for Turn 1 and I could focus on my own race from that moment onwards.

    “I tried to push at the beginning to get a bit of a gap and for Max to not be in the DRS zone because I knew that I would have been vulnerable if it was the case.

    “But I paid the price a little bit later on in the race and had some graining and then really struggled in the last two, three laps.”

    As a result, Leclerc reckoned addressing the graining and finding a fix ahead of the full grand prix on Sunday was the main lesson to take from the sprint race.

    He added that such a “cure” would place him in contention for the win, rather than relying on the powerful slipstream out of Rivazza and the DRS effect into Tamburello.

    Asked by whether he thought the result could be overturned in the GP, Leclerc said: “I think the pace is quite similar [between Red Bull and Ferrari].

    “What made the difference at the end was the graining phase that I went through.

    “If we manage to cure that all for tomorrow, I’m pretty sure that we’re in the fight for the win. If not, it’s going to be a bit more difficult.”

    Verstappen had observed that his rival initially had more pace before he “ran out of tyres”, which allowed the Dutch racer to close the gap after initially playing a “waiting game”.

    However, Verstappen reckoned the possible use of the medium tyre in the GP, should the forecasted rain not impact play, could change the competitive order.

    He said: “Today, it worked out for us to be on this compound.

    “Let’s see tomorrow. I’m of course happy about today but I know that tomorrow, also other tyre compounds coming into play, it might be a bit different.”

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